Flying Boat // stephen connolly / layla curtis

Geohumanities Creative Commission 2019-2020

Progress Post: May 2020

In spring 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has severely impacted air travel around the globe. The Flying Boat project pivoted from investigating the possible impacts on climate change on air travel to explore instead how the pandemic will impact on the future of air travel. Two aspects of air travel are emerging from the pandemic; the socio-economic inequalities of this mode of transport; and its latent materiality.[1]

Flying is a privileged mode of movement: from the global perspective, only 20% of humanity have ever set foot in an aircraft; even in wealthier societies it can be framed as a luxury activity.[2] Air travel is framed as a release from gravity and a freedom to roam the globe, yet as its material entanglements with the Covid contagion have brought it to earth. The infrastructure of aviation is deeply invested in material practices; airports are amongst the largest built environment installations, yet now grid-locked by nose to tail, parked aircraft. Oil is trading in April 2020 at negative prices; the on-stream infrastructures of fuel production are too cumbersome to slow or stop.[3]

The video Chek Lap Kok (Hong Kong Airport) 21.00 01.12.19 documents a walk to the terminal from the Expo centre on the airport island, by means of slow travel, under makeshift conditions, and without carbon expenditure. It’s a harbinger of lean and informal travel arrangements which may be a feature of time to come. This is a provisional, work in progress for the Flying Boat project.

[1] For latent materialities see Bennett, J. (2010). Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things.
[2] As late as 2017, the Boeing CEO claimed meeting this gap as a business strategy
[3] Oil at Negative Prices